05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

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05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby thedungeondelver » Tue May 19, 2009 8:28 pm

Man I should never say "I'm going to do it on this given day" because from that point forward, I curse myself.

Now where was I...

As to Unearthed Arcana and the addition of more races: I think you can take or leave the majority of them. Most of the races seem to stem largely from Gary's (published*) Greyhawk works. Wild Elves and Elves of the Vale of the Mage both stem almost directly from the '80 folio and '83 boxed set - but despite the officialness of the book, I think they (like a great many things in the book) can be discounted.

Class wise, even I find myself less enamored of the book. At this point, we have the Cavalier introduced now as a canon, by-the-book character class. Never in my campaign, never again. I've seen how ridiculous they can be. Moreover, they are mechanically clunky (as are "barbarians"), and while interesting from a role-playing standpoint, I would almost tend to want to add the fluff text for a Cavalier (NOT the rules) to the Paladin. Also they put the Paladin under the Cavalier class, which creates an interesting conundrum - by the book (and there is no admonition against it either in the book or in later errata) you can have an elven cavalier. While I realize to players of 2e and onward that may not seem strange, I for one would rule that out.

I never found the theif-acrobat particularly offensive, and would probably allow someone to play it in my campaign (as it is Greyhawk, after all...)

Magic items come mostly from published earlier modules - no foul here. Likewise, new spells and the treatment of spellbooks isn't very overpowering, so there's no problem with that for me.

The new unarmed combat methods are preferred over the old - Gary said he didn't think much of the method listed in the DMG. I've only ever known one player who could use them proficiently (and he doesn't like AD&D).

The last, and probably stickiest issue is the raising of the ceiling for demi-humans.

Now, I'm on record as feeling that demi-human level limits are a fine thing. Demi-humans are "front loaded" with plenty of bonuses - a triple-classed f/mu/th full elf with the stats to back up the classes, or even a dual-classed f/cl or mu/cl can be one tough customer. That's why I always admonish players who want to keep climbing levels in a campaign and do it playing demi-humans to play a (class)/thief. Fighter/thief, mu/th, etc. This is always a good route to go. You get the ever increasing thief abilities, ever increasing hit points, plus all the various bonuses as a demi-human that you got from the get-go. It's really a sweet deal.

With that in mind, I'm a little opposed to the level increase then, for the various races. I think that if for you it works to increase (or remove) demi-human level limits, more power to you. Just don't try to sell it to me.



...

That's really just about it as far as it goes on UA, for me. I think it's a reasonable book that can be used largely as is. I think a good, thoughtful DM will consider each piece of it before integrating them into his or her campaign. Remember the last paragraph of the DMG, and don't get kneecapped by a player wielding this book and claiming that he should get to be an elven paladin triple specialized in bow with unlimited levels "just because"..

...

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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby grodog » Tue May 19, 2009 8:49 pm

thedungeondelver wrote:That's really just about it as far as it goes on UA, for me. I think it's a reasonable book that can be used largely as is. I think a good, thoughtful DM will consider each piece of it before integrating them into his or her campaign.


I think that's the best advice out there for playing D&D in general, truthfully, but UA and other materials in particular (NPC classes from Dragon as PC classes, for example...).
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Falconer » Wed May 20, 2009 7:31 am

I’ll try to say my thoughts without getting too long (and so violating the whole idea of ’blog), or rehashing what has been said by hundreds of AD&D fans, hundreds of times. So, yeah, it’s a mixed-bag and definitely should be unofficial and DM-only despite what it says, and that’s the bottom line. That said, it is still open to criticism.

What I find to be missing from every discussion of UA is an analysis of the four crucial pages at the beginning which struggle to explain who did what. This isn’t like the Holy Three (MM/PH/DMG), which is Gygax’s game from Gygax’s typewriter from cover to cover. If I read it aright, UA was:

- Compiled and executed by Jeff Grubb and Kim Mohan, largely from DRAGON
- Roger Moore contributed Non-Human Deities and various other work from DRAGON
- Gary Gygax contributed Pole Arms and various other work from TSR/DRAGON
- Gary and Luke Gygax contributed spells and treasure
- Everything had to be critiqued and approved/disapproved by Frank Mentzer

Spells and Treasure make up the bulk of this book, and they make this book a totally usable mine for the DM, and are enough to guarantee authorship credit for Gary. Weaponless Combat System I is completely spot on, and Pole Arms are so wonderfully Gygax and really part of what makes D & D immortal. So on those strengths, I think UA is a must-have.

All the rest? Blah.

So, is EVERYTHING that is good here completely thanks to Gygax, and EVERYTHING that is bad here completely the fault of Grubb and Mentzer? As an unabashed Gygax fanboy, I would find comfort in that assertion. I think I’d have a pretty good case. Look, not one of the classes or races or new rules is in and of itself completely out of place in D & D or a totally bad idea. But they ARE uniformly fiddly, over-complex and over-powered. The EXECUTION is off, and the execution is not Gary’s. That is made explicit in the introduction!

What do you think of that?
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby thedungeondelver » Wed May 20, 2009 8:51 am

Falconer wrote:I’ll try to say my thoughts without getting too long (and so violating the whole idea of ’blog), or rehashing what has been said by hundreds of AD&D fans, hundreds of times. So, yeah, it’s a mixed-bag and definitely should be unofficial and DM-only despite what it says, and that’s the bottom line. That said, it is still open to criticism.

What I find to be missing from every discussion of UA is an analysis of the four crucial pages at the beginning which struggle to explain who did what. This isn’t like the Holy Three (MM/PH/DMG), which is Gygax’s game from Gygax’s typewriter from cover to cover. If I read it aright, UA was:

- Compiled and executed by Jeff Grubb and Kim Mohan, largely from DRAGON
- Roger Moore contributed Non-Human Deities and various other work from DRAGON
- Gary Gygax contributed Pole Arms and various other work from TSR/DRAGON
- Gary and Luke Gygax contributed spells and treasure
- Everything had to be critiqued and approved/disapproved by Frank Mentzer

Spells and Treasure make up the bulk of this book, and they make this book a totally usable mine for the DM, and are enough to guarantee authorship credit for Gary. Weaponless Combat System I is completely spot on, and Pole Arms are so wonderfully Gygax and really part of what makes D & D immortal. So on those strengths, I think UA is a must-have.

All the rest? Blah.

So, is EVERYTHING that is good here completely thanks to Gygax, and EVERYTHING that is bad here completely the fault of Grubb and Mentzer? As an unabashed Gygax fanboy, I would find comfort in that assertion. I think I’d have a pretty good case. Look, not one of the classes or races or new rules is in and of itself completely out of place in D & D or a totally bad idea. But they ARE uniformly fiddly, over-complex and over-powered. The EXECUTION is off, and the execution is not Gary’s. That is made explicit in the introduction!

What do you think of that?


I think you're right. The execution does not read the same as Gary's, nor does the book "Feel like" one of the Trinity. The only other thing I'd say regarding your thesis is that yes, Grubb and Mohan compiled the book from Dragon (and The Strategic Review - at least regarding the article on polearms) but the vast majority of those were written by Gary in the first place.

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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Falconer » Wed May 20, 2009 10:02 am

As I said, actual authorship of most of the content and ideas of UA do certainly belong to Gary. The thing is, often I hear people say that UA represents Gary’s Version or Gary’s Take or Gary’s Final Say on ideas that had been floating around for quite some time. I propose—and this is based on Jeff Grubb’s published intro right there in UA—that UA actually represents Jeff’s Take on things (with kibitzing from Frank).

For example, we know Gygax created Drow/Svirfneblin as monster/NPC races in G3/D1. I can see the idea of taking that and publishing them as PC races was Grubb’s idea and Grubb’s execution. (Or Mohan. Whatever.) Can’t you?

Ultimately, of course, Gygax put his name on it and gave it his seal of approval, so he does share the blame. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it the way I like his own actual work. :-)

In other words, if you want Gary’s Take on something, you’re better off going straight to S4 or DRAGON if possible.
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Matthew » Thu May 21, 2009 2:48 pm

A lot of occasionally dreadful stuff in Unearthed Arcana is unashamedly Gygaxian, in the sense that he wrote and authorised it, such as.tThe changes to the ranger class, weapon specialisation, level limit changes. I cannot think of one bad word he ever said about the book, but then I don't know that he ever actually read it either (I assume that he did). If you want the unabashedly Gygax version of Unearthed Arcana free from editing, then look no farther than his various From the Sorcerer's Scroll articles (#59-72 is an unbroken run of such material), they are to Unearthed Arcana what OD&D and it s supplements are to Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Here is a list of the ones I know of:

#59 Magician Cantrips (pp. 6-10)
#60 Magician Cantrips (pp. 16-21)
#61 Illusionist Cantrips (pp. 6-8)
#62 Spell Books (pp. 14-15)
#63 The Barbarian Subclass (pp. 8-11)
#64 New weapons (pp. 6-9)
#65 Character Class Discussion and Errata (pp. 9-10)
#66 New Illusionist Spells and Weapon Specialisation (pp. 22-28)
#67 New Magician Spells [Levels 1-4] (pp. 4-9 & 54-58)
#68 New Magician Spells [Levels 5-9] (pp. 24-27)
#69 The Thief-Acrobat Subclass (pp. 20-23)
#70 Social Status and Birth Table (p. 11)
#71 New Druid Spells (pp. 5-9) [Comment on the spells elsewhere provided by Len Lakofa]
#72 The Cavalier Subclass (pp. 6-11)
#73 The Inner Planes (pp. 10-14) [Not included in Unearthed Arcana]
#74 War Horse Barding (pp. 4-6)
#75 Monster Manual II Preview (pp. 8-14)
#76-89 [No Entry]
#90 Charmable Humanoids (p. 16)
#91 Goristro Demon, MMII errata (p. 8)
#92 Some Speciality Clerics (pp. 8-9)
#93 New Rules for Druids (pp. 8-9)
#94 Official Changes for Rangers (pp. 8-9)
#95 Demi Human Level Limits (pp. 8-10)
#96 Demi Human Classes (pp. 8-9)
#97 Deities and Worshippers (p. 8)
#98-100 [No Entry]
#101 Update from the Chief

...and a non Gygaxian entry I know of:

Roger Moore

#83 Unarmed Combat (pp. 55-58)
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Falconer » Thu May 21, 2009 6:44 pm

Very illuminating. Thanks!
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Falconer » Tue May 26, 2009 11:44 am

It would be cool to take all the Gygax "proto-UA" articles from Dragon and just combine those pages into a single PDF document. The same could be done for MM2 and WoG'83 but probably no need.
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“Do we walk in legends or on the green earth in the daylight?”

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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby grodog » Fri May 29, 2009 12:00 am

I still prefer the barbarian from Dragon to the version in UA, ditto with some of the spells even.
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Matthew » Fri May 29, 2009 11:55 am

Falconer wrote:Very illuminating. Thanks!

No problem.

Falconer wrote:It would be cool to take all the Gygax "proto-UA" articles from Dragon and just combine those pages into a single PDF document. The same could be done for MM2 and WoG'83 but probably no need.

That does sound like an interesting idea, and add in the three issues or so that have From the Sorcerer's Scroll articles dealing with Greyhawk, but my goodness, have you seen the Dragon version of the cavalier? If anyone ever thought that the Unearthed Arcana version was underpowered, the original has it beat hands down. :D

grodog wrote:I still prefer the barbarian from Dragon to the version in UA, ditto with some of the spells even.

Before or after the errata in Dragon #65?
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby grodog » Fri May 29, 2009 11:54 pm

Matthew wrote:
grodog wrote:I still prefer the barbarian from Dragon to the version in UA, ditto with some of the spells even.

Before or after the errata in Dragon #65?


I do use the errata from 65 in general, although I can certainly imagine games where that's not applicable, and I also thought that there was another set of comments added about the barbarian somewhere else, but I can't seem to find them now (my campaign folder is upstairs, and Heather's already asleep...).
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Falconer » Sat May 30, 2009 8:58 am

It's in #67 where he talks about the Barbarian and game balance.
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby grodog » Sat May 30, 2009 10:14 pm

Falconer wrote:It's in #67 where he talks about the Barbarian and game balance.


Thanks Philip: I flipped through 67, but must have missed it.
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby Matthew » Sun May 31, 2009 2:05 pm

grodog wrote:I do use the errata from 65 in general, although I can certainly imagine games where that's not applicable, and I also thought that there was another set of comments added about the barbarian somewhere else, but I can't seem to find them now (my campaign folder is upstairs, and Heather's already asleep...).

Interesting. I am not a big fan of the errata regarding magical weapons, possibly because of the Phoenix on the Sword or other instances where Conan is aided by a magic item of some description. On the other hand, it works well for his fight with the demon thing in the Slithering Shadow (assuming an AD&D paradigm bolted onto the tale). That said, I am not exactly a proponent of the barbarian subclass to begin with.

grodog wrote:
Falconer wrote:It's in #67 where he talks about the Barbarian and game balance.

Thanks Philip: I flipped through 67, but must have missed it.

Oh yes, I had forgotten about that. It should be added to any compilation.
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Re: 05/19 - On Unearthed Arcana II

Postby grodog » Sun May 31, 2009 3:18 pm

Matthew wrote:Interesting. I am not a big fan of the errata regarding magical weapons, possibly because of the Phoenix on the Sword or other instances where Conan is aided by a magic item of some description. On the other hand, it works well for his fight with the demon thing in the Slithering Shadow (assuming an AD&D paradigm bolted onto the tale).


Yeah, it can go either way, and truthfully I'm less concerned about the REH side of things than I am with a PC barbarian being a "destroy all magic items, even in the party"/disenchanter type of PC that the UA version encourages. I really loathe that.

Matthew wrote:That said, I am not exactly a proponent of the barbarian subclass to begin with.


I've had a hmmm.../meh relationship with barbarians over the years: I've had a few barbarians in my games, but they got winnowed out by the slow XP progression, mostly, I think. I probably didn't also provide as many opportunities for their rugged survivalism forte to shine, either. I like them mostly as NPCs (at least within GH), but I do generally prefer them as PCs to cavaliers PCs.
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